When The Last Petal Falls – Chapter Three

Mippy came and sat back down.  Her eyes scanned the room as if she was looking at it for the very first time.

She smiled and said “after we got married, we bought this little house.  I was going to make curtains for the windows, have a garden outside and I wanted a white picket fence all the way around the yard.  Jus was going to build a swing set for all the children we were going to have.”

She was silent for a minute as she looked at the rose in the little glass vase.  I asked “what happened, Mippy?”

“There was a war going on,” she said.  “Young men were being called to arms, whether they wanted to go or not.  They had what they called a draft lottery back then and when your number was called, you had to go.”

She looked out the window and said, “I was hoping that his number wouldn’t be picked.  I knew that all numbers would eventually be picked but I was hoping his would be far away or that maybe the war would be over when it was picked.”

I asked what she meant by a draft lottery.  She said “all the days of the year were put into blue plastic capsules and then placed in a deep glass jar. One by one, the numbers were pulled out.”

She said “I remember sitting at his mama and daddy’s house.  The numbers being picked were on television.  We watched as they picked those numbers out of that jar.  #38 was pulled.  That meant that all the young men born on March 31st would be going”

She looked at he rose and said “Jus was born on March 31st.”

I said, “are you talking about the Vietnam War?”

Mippy said, “yes child.  The Vietnam War.  A horrible, wretched, senseless war.”

I had heard about that war but it happened way before my time and it had faded into the background as the years went by.  My only experience with war was when the “war on terrorism” came to the forefront and even then, I was very young and didn’t really understand about war and death and the cost of freedom.  People talked about that war but no one ever seemed to want to talk about Vietnam.  I got the impression that there was some sort of stigma attached to it.

Mippy said “after his number was called, we only had one month until he had to go.  I spent most of that time crying at night after he had gone to sleep.  I prayed and promised and begged and pleaded.  I would have almost sold my soul to the devil, if it meant that Jus would return safely to me.”

“I remember the day he left” she said.  “My eyes were almost swollen shut from crying.  I thought my heart would break right there at the train station but Jus asked me to be strong.  I took comfort trying to picture him in his uniform.  I remember thinking that he was going to look so handsome and even though I didn’t want him to go, I was proud that he was serving our country.”

“Before he got on the train,” she said, “he handed me this rose and promised that he would be back.  He winked at me and said “and I’d better see that rose sitting on the kitchen table.”

I looked at her and said “Mippy.  That can’t be true.  That rose would have to be at least fifty years old.”

She ignored me as if I hadn’t said anything.  She said “he told me that he wanted me to think of him every time I looked at the rose and know that he would be thinking of me.”

Suddenly, she had a look on her face that I had never seen.  It was anger and rage and repulsion.  She said, “what those boys went through there, ‘in country’, as they called it, and what they went through when they came back, well, at least the ones who made it back.  I know this.  None of those young men who made it back, were ever the same again.  You can’t look at something as horrible as people getting blown up and shot to death and not feel changed.”

Her focus abruptly returned to the rose in the small glass vase.  She smiled once again as she looked at it.

“I wrote to him every single day,” she said, “and I wrote the letters right here at my kitchen table, looking at my rose.”

 

To be continued____________________

 

 

 

 

When The Last Petal Falls – Chapter Two

Mippy began to tell me the story about the rose.  I listened with focused intensity as she began to weave a tapestry of life, love, hope, despair and loss.

“When I was your age, I was fresh out of high school, just like you,” she said.  “There was no money for college so I had my sights set on getting a job at the Telephone Company.  They paid well and although I had no experience, I was hired based on my perfect attendance record in school.”

I interrupted and said “you never missed a day of school?”  She smiled and said “not one.  I went through all twelve grades with perfect attendance.”

I said “I never knew that Mippy.”  She smiled again and said “there are many things about me that you don’t know.”

She looked at the rose and continued.

“I walked up town to work every day.  One day, Just as I was about to cross the street, I saw a man leaning against a telephone pole.  He was the most handsome man I had ever seen.”

She laughed when she said “I was staring at him so hard that I didn’t even realize I was walking out in front of a Taxicab.  When the driver blew his horn, it startled me.  I stumbled and fell down.  This man…this beautiful man, came running over to help me.”

“For us,” she said, “it was love at first sight.  We had what you would call a whirlwind romance…a fairy tale romance…a romance for the ages romance.  We were crazy in love.”

“Mippy!” I said.  “You are waxing nostalgic!  I’ve never heard you talk this way before.”

I was still being mindful of what mama had told me years ago…to not mention my grandpa to Mippy, but I wanted to hear more.

Mippy stared at the rose and said “his name was Joseph Unwin Sinclair.  His people were Danish immigrants who had come here generations ago, for their taste of the great American dream.”

It was at that moment, I realized that Joseph Unwin Sinclair was my grandpa.  The grandpa I had never known.  The grandpa no one ever spoke of.  The grandpa that mama didn’t want me to ask Mippy about.

She laughed and said “I called him Jus and he called me ‘Maggie for Margaret’.”  She laughed again and I could see a twinkle in her eye as she said “he always called me ‘Maggie for Margaret’.”

Her voice trailed off and I could see such pain in her face.  I asked if she wanted to continue or if she wanted to talk about it later.

She said, “I’m fine dear.  Sometimes, reminiscing about the past makes one so very happy and so very sad at the same time, but the story of the rose needs to be told.”

She reached into her apron pocket and took out a ring.  It was a simple, gold band.  I had never seen her wear it.  I didn’t even know she had it.  As she gently put it on the proper finger of her left hand, she said “six weeks after we met that day in the street, we got married.”

Her eyes began to tear up when she said “How I loved him.  How I loved him so dearly.”

Suddenly she said “oh!”

A petal fell from the rose and rested gently on the table and I watched as she carefully picked it up and placed it in the little pink bowl.

 

 

To be continued_______________________

 

 

 

When The Last Petal Falls – Chapter One

Strange things happen in this world.  Some make us laugh, some make us cry, some make us gasp in horror and some make us wistfully nostalgic.

This is the story of an ordinary woman who was born, lived for many years and then, as we all do, died.  No monument has been erected in her honor.  No likeness of her stands in public a place.  You will never read about her in a magazine, nor will you celebrate a holiday created just for her.

But those of us who knew her, tell not of an ordinary woman, but of a remarkable woman who experienced an extraordinary ill-fated love story.

Her name was Maggie Sinclair and she was my grandmother.

For as long as I can remember, I called her Mippy.  I spent summers at her house and I always looked forward to my visits.  I remember Mippy being a jovial, carefree, vociferous woman but I never really understood what her life was about until I got much older.

I remember the single rose that lived in a small glass vase, sitting on her kitchen table.  Mippy told me that I could look at it and admire it but I must never touch it.

When I was about twelve, we were having our regular oatmeal breakfast and I happened to look at the rose, just as a petal fell.  Mippy looked at it and smiled.  Then she carefully picked it up and put it in a small pink bowl with several other petals.

When she came and sat back down, she smiled and said “one day, I’ll tell you the story about this rose.”  Being twelve, I’m not sure I had a hankering to hear about a flower but I remember her face when she looked at it.  It was a sad, bittersweet smile but I could see the light behind her eyes.

The rose was one of those things you grow up seeing, not paying any attention to, and most likely, not missing if it wasn’t there.  Sort of like grandpas.  I had heard about grandpas.  I had read about grandpas.  I had even seen what looked like grandpas.  I had a grandpa but he lived far away in another state and I had never met him.  He was my daddy’s daddy.

When I was old enough to understand, mama told me not to ask Mippy about my other grandpa, because it might make her sad.  I didn’t miss him because I didn’t know him.  I didn’t think about him because I’d never seen him.  For me, it had always just been Mippy.

As I grew older, my visits with Mippy waned a bit.  I missed her oatmeal breakfasts, beans and cornbread dinners and the popsicles we always had on a hot, summer day.  She was getting older, too.  Her hair had turned grey and she had lost a bit of the spring in her step.

I spent my last summer with Mippy, just after I turned eighteen.  Times had changed.  I drove to her house instead of my daddy bringing me.  We sat at the kitchen table and talked about grown-up things, like college and boyfriends.

I remember looking at the rose, still living in the small glass vase.  Petals had continued to fall and the little pink bowl that kept them was almost full.

I remember thinking, “how can that rose still be alive after all these years?”

 

To be continued______________________